Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company helping ponies fight “Swamp Cancer,” one pony impacted this year

CHINCOTEAGUE, Va.- The Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company said they work hard to make sure the ponies on the island are doing well.

But during these last few months, they’ve had to worry about a potentially deadly disease known as “swamp cancer” or pythiosis after one of their ponies was recently infected.

“The earlier that the individuals that are caring for the horses identify or see the wounds or see the injuries the sooner they can aggressively treat,” Dr. Paul Hanebutt, with Brenford Animal Hospital, said.

Pythiosis is caused by a flesh eating bacteria that can live in marshes and it seems to grow when weather is warm and there’s a wet period, a w
eather pattern that the fire company’s public relations officer,  Denise Bowden, said we’ve seen on Delmarva this year.

“This year around August or September we had, it seemed like we had a little bit of rain thrown in there, that seems to make it more prominent,” Bowden said.

Bowden said in the past this disease has caused them to have to put down ponies, but since they were introduced to a vaccine around a year and half ago it has been a positive thing.

“We’ve been feeling more and more confident obviously since having the vaccine for the ponies, that doesn’t mean we’ve let our guard down by any means,” Bowden said.

Bowden adds they have certainly been doing their part with giving the ponies treatment and having the vet take a look at them.

A vet we spoke to said while officials are doing their part, they hope people in the park help these ponies as well.

“They should try to let park officials know that they saw a horse in this location that has a wound or something that didn’t look like normal anatomy to them,” Dr. Hanebutt said.

Categories: Local News, Virginia